What a difference 20 centuries makes. In the 1st century BC., artists in Rome carved unclad likenesses of their gods and goddesses, which their city installed in public places. This month, when the Geneva Museum of Art posted photos of the very same statues on Facebook to promote the exhibit “Caesar and the Rones,” they were censored owing to a policy against displaying nudes on its site - “even if it isn’t sexual in nature.”

Rule book for Facebook

With such an unsparing rule in place, even asexual images of, say, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden painted on Vatican walls would be deemed risque.

Time magazine quoted Sylvia Treglia-Detraz, speaking for the Switzerland museum about what the social media company told her after she posted pictures of the sculptures: “Company policy against nudity includes the use of nudity for artistic or educational purpose.”

Exceptions made

The all-encompassing rule suggests that Facebook sees an equivalency between porn and painting or sculpture. It also points to a cultural divide between Europe and the U.S. While Americans have a puritan tradition, Europeans see bared bodies on their beaches, in their parks, and in their streets where old Rome's statues stand. But wait, Facebook doesn't get off that easy even given the excuse of our puritanical traditions.

While it monitors its pages for postings of nudes in art, it has looked the other way for postings of fake news. I'm thinking of allowing Russia to buy political ads during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election intended to divide the electorate about issues of race, gay rights, gun rights, and immigration.

Excuses, excuses

The question that goes pleading here is, why? Why was Russia's blatant attempt to interfere with American democracy acceptable and a display of historic marbles and bronzes objectionable? Answer: follow the money. You can see the answer emerge in a New York Times headline in 2017: “Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads.” A non-profit public art museum can't hope to compete with that payment.

Is it any wonder, then, that Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, had difficulty admitting that his company had a negative impact on the election? Money talks.

Pay to play

It should be noted here that Facebook's ruling against artworld posts has been souped up over the years. In 2017, “Community Standards” was the reason given, and it made sense to keep the site free of obscenities and material intended to titillate. But in the case of the Geneva museum posts, I submit that if you can get off on statues made of bronze and marble, I salute you. As for Facebook's latest ruling that excludes museum art “even if it isn’t sexual in nature,” the game is clear: pay to play. Where have I heard that before?